Baseless right-wing accusations of voter fraud? Must mean an election is near

››› ››› CHRISTINE SCHWEN & CHELSEA RUDMAN

In the final days before the midterm elections, following a very familiar pattern, conservative media have yet again turned to hyping baseless and misleading claims of voter fraud.

Right-wing media baselessly claim SEIU rigged machines to cast votes for Reid

Conservative media hype claims of voter fraud in Nevada to baselessly suggest SEIU is stealing votes for Reid. Several conservative media figures, including the co-hosts of Fox & Friends, The Washington Examiner, the Fox Nation, HotAir, Jim Hoft, and Michelle Malkin all promoted a Fox5 Las Vegas story highlighting claims from early voters that when they went to vote, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's name had already been checked on the electronic ballot. They cited this story to baselessly suggest that because the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) represents the technicians to repair the voting machines, SEIU is engaged in a conspiracy to fraudulently cast votes for Reid.

However, Fox5 Las Vegas also reported Registrar of Voters Larry Lomax called claims of fraud "patently false." Fox5 also reported that although "some voters complained that Sen. Harry Reid's name had been pre-selected" in Clark County voting locations, "election officials insisted on Tuesday that electronic voting machines were not malfunctioning." The article quoted Registrar of Voters Larry Lomax as saying "those claims were 'patently false' " and "at no time did any of those voters report the incident to staff at their polling location." From the article:

Registrar of Voters Larry Lomax said those claims were "patently false" and said at no time did any of those voters report the incident to staff at their polling location.

"In fact, although over 160,000 people have voted early in Clark County, those allegations that have been made have gone directly to the media as opposed to election board officers," he said.

Lomax advised voters to be aware that touch-screens on the screens are sensitive. For that reason, a person may not want to have their fingers linger too long on the screen after they make a selection at any time.

"Especially in a community with elderly citizens (they have) difficulty in (casting their) ballot," Lomax said. "Team leaders said there were complaints (and the) race filled in."

Lomax previously called for an investigation into allegations that ACORN engaged in voter fraud. In 2009, The New York Times reported that Lomax called for an investigation into allegations that ACORN had engaged in voter registration fraud, noting that Nevada's Secretary of State "investigated Acorn at the behest of the Clark County registrar of voters, Larry Lomax, who noted a high number of forms turned in featuring the names of famous football players and cartoon characters."

Right-wing media hype Angle's fabricated claim that Reid is stealing election with bribes of free food

Angle campaign attorney: Reid "intends to steal this election" by offering free food in exchange for votes. The Las Vegas Sun reported that Nevada GOP senatorial candidate Sharron Angle's campaign attorney, Cleta Mitchell, wrote a fundraising letter to supporters in which she asserted that "Harry Reid intends to steal this election if he can't win it outright" and that "Harry Reid has been offering free food" at "voter turnout events." Mitchell went on to say: "What Harry Reid is doing is clearly illegal. Nevada law (NRS 293.700) provides that, 'A person who bribes, offers to bribe, or use and other corrupt means, directly or indirectly, to influence any elector in giving his or her vote or to deter the elector from giving it is guilty of a category D felony and shall be punished as provided in NRS 193.130.' "

Conservative media picked up and ran with the Angle campaign claim. Several conservative media figures advanced Mitchell's claim. For example, Sweetness & Light blogger Steve Gilbert linked to the Sun article and added: "If Democrats didn't buy their votes, you have to wonder if they would win any elections anywhere." Similarly, the Fox Nation linked to the Sun article with the headline, "Reid 'Intends to steal this election.' "

NV Secretary of State: Angle's campaign "fails to cite any evidence of 'vote buying' "; offering voters free food regardless of who they voted for does not violate election law. In a statement responding to the Angle campaign's allegations, Nevada's Secretary of State Ross Miller wrote that the campaign "fails to cite any evidence of 'vote buying.' " Miller added that activities such as offering free food to voters "irrespective of how and for whom they voted" does not violate state law so long as "it is not connected to any specific candidate and does not compromise the will of the elector." Miller also wrote that actions which "promote the act of voting," such as offering food to voters, "support the democratic process." Additionally, a spokeswoman for the Secretary of State reportedly noted that despite Mitchell's allegations, the office "has not received a single report of voter fraud from someone who experienced it personally."

Right-wing media distort Arizona court ruling to suggest it will influence election

Scarborough falsely claimed "a judge ... overturned an Arizona law that would actually require people to have a photo ID to vote." From the October 27 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:

JOE SCARBOROUGH (co-host): By the way, I just -- a judge, I understand, overturned an Arizona law that would actually require people to have a photo ID to vote. I mean, seriously, how low does the bar have to go? Seriously? That is such a joke.

HAROLD FORD JR. (former Democratic congressman): We do have a history in the country where people were denied the right to vote because they had [inaudible] --

SCARBOROUGH: Well, yeah, sure we do. So you let -- so you let people steal votes now? A photo ID, Harold, a photo ID.

FORD: Right, but you don't actually have to have one. If you show up and you have proof of ID and you sign something saying it's yourself -- these are just federal rules that we have, so, I don't disagree with you, having someone there at the polling booth or polling place -- should not intimidate voters, but to suggest that we don't have an ugly -- which I know you know -- and pernicious history in this country of people, particularly blacks and minorities and even women --

SCARBOROUGH: Well, but why are you bringing that up when all I want to do is make sure that whoever goes and votes is who they say they are, and they have a photo ID. What is so wrong with that?

In fact, a three-judge panel overturned an AZ state law that required proof of U.S. citizenship to register to vote and upheld the portion of the law requiring voters show ID. As reported by Reuters and The Associated Press, the panel of the 9th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals found that a portion of the Arizona law, which required residents to provide proof of citizenship in order to register to vote, is inconsistent with the National Voter Registration Act, which, according to the AP, "allows voters to fill out a mail-in voter registration card and swear they are citizens under penalty of perjury, but doesn't require them to show proof as Arizona's law does." In addition, as the AP reported, "The ruling left in place a requirement that voters provide proof of identity when casting ballots."

Conservative bloggers linked court ruling to other examples of alleged voter fraud, suggest ruling will affect 2010 elections. In an October 27 post on her blog updating a previous "voter fraud round-up," Malkin wrote: "[T]he 9th Circuit Court of Appeals just undermined Arizona's citizenship proof rules for voting -- sabotaging efforts to ensure that only legal U.S. citizens vote in U.S. elections." An October 27 post on RedState on its "recap" of "some of the 'coincidences' leading up to next week's mid-term elections" includes the Arizona ruling. In fact, the ruling will not take effect until the next election. According to Reuters, "The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' invalidation of requirements for proof of citizenship comes too late for any prospective new voters who were barred from registering before the deadline for the November 2 U.S. mid-term elections."

North Carolina voting machine problems exaggerated by conservative bloggers

Right-wing blogs promoted reports of irregularities with voting machines in North Carolina. An October 23 article in the New Bern (NC) Sun Journal reported that a Craven County voter "pushed the button to vote Republican in all races, but the voting machine screen displayed a ballot with all Democrats checked." An October 25 report from local station WITN noted that the State Board of Elections said at the time that "only 2 counties have reported early voting problems with the touch-screen Ivotronic machines." On October 26 and 27, right-wing blogs Gateway Pundit, the Jawa Report, Ace of Spades, and BigGovernment all included links to the reports of irregularities with voting machines in North Carolina. Indeed, BigGovernment highlighted several accusations of voter fraud:

BigGov-20101027-votefraud

But, according to the county's Board of Elections chairman, "in each case the voter was able to cast his or her ballot as desired." According to the Sun Journal article, M. Ray Wood, Craven County Board of Elections chairman, "issued a written statement saying that the elections board is aware of isolated issues and that in each case the voter was able to cast his or her ballot as desired." WITN noted that in the two counties where problems were reported, the deputy director of the state Board of Elections said that "the machines were recalibrated when voters reported the problem, and everyone was able to cast votes of their choice."

Like clockwork, conservatives cry voter fraud in advance of elections

Conservative media have repeatedly issued baseless claims of voter fraud in previous elections As Media Matters has noted, conservative media have consistently made baseless claims of voter fraud during the past six years.

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